Scientists rejecting UK over Brexit uncertainty

Population too small to produce enough scientific talent to maintain UK’s pole position in pharmaceutical innovation, but scientists are reluctant to take jobs here because of Brexit uncertainty.

clincial research talent at work in lab

Science staff are rejecting the chance to work in the UK because of fears over Brexit, a senior figure at a major pharmaceutical firm has said.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president of the Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit at AstraZeneca said he was “starting to see an issue around talent” coming to work in the UK.

“We are being as supportive as we can but we are starting to see people turn us down in the UK because they are worried about the uncertainty,” he said.

Pangalos said his firm was reassuring potential employees from abroad that there would still be a role for scientific talent in the UK after Brexit, but some potential employees were still loath to come.

Dave Allen, senior vice president of respiratory disease research and development at GSK, who also gave evidence to the committee, said that the UK’s population, of around 65 million, was not big enough to produce enough scientific talent to maintain the country’s position at the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation.

“People want to come here to work with their families, and we need to make it easy for them to come,” he said.

The Lords committee was hearing evidence as part of its inquiry into the government’s life sciences industrial strategy, published in August 2017. The strategy was intended to secure the long-term success of the life sciences industry in the UK and it includes a chapter on improving collaboration between industry and the NHS.

Also giving evidence to the committee was Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) chief executive, Ian Hudson, who said his organisation’s preference was for Brexit negotiations to lead to continued close co-operation with the MHRA’s European counterparts.

The MHRA set up a Brexit taskforce that would ensure business continuity “from day one” of Brexit, he said, but if negotiations did not lead to the MHRA playing a full part in future European regulatory procedures, it would be a priority of the organisation to ensure that the split from Europe would not increase the regulatory burden on UK-based pharmaceutical firms.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, October 2017;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203750